March 8, 2014

MEGAN MCARDLE: NOTHING EXCITING ABOUT THE JOBS NUMBERS:

They’re not bad — 175,000 jobs were added, mostly in business and professional services and durable-goods wholesalers. Most of the rest of our nation’s industries didn’t do much one way or another, except for motion picture and sound recording, which even in the best of economies is not what you’d call “steady work.” Given that many of those industries spent the last two months shedding jobs the way Lady Gaga goes through costumes, plodding boringly along was a cheering improvement. Especially considering the weather.

On the other hand, these numbers aren’t good, either. Because the economy needs to add somewhere in the range of 100,000 jobs a month just to accommodate population growth, 175,000 still leaves us very far from the level needed to absorb America’s vast reserve army of the unemployed. It’s the sort of number you expect to see in the tail months of an expiring boom, not as we pull out of recession. Numbers like this give credence to any number of depressing theories about permanently depressed labor-force participation — and the permanently lower gross domestic product that comes with it.

This is, of course, exactly the stagnation that critics of Obamanomics predicted.